When most people think of Laguna Niguel, Calif., they think of a quiet bedroom community. True for the most part, however, every once in a while controversy can brew.
For example, one of the most talked about events is the “Annual Mooning of Amtrak” and the “Annual Mooning of Metrolink” that tends to make national news almost every year. Some changes were recently put into place thanks to the Laguna Niguel City Council, which hoped to clean up the event.
Laguna Niguel City Councilmember, Paul Glaab, said the mooning has been in place for 29 years, well before Laguna Niguel became a city. The next mooning is scheduled for July 11 and it is an all-day event.
“It was an event that was good clean fun with many people coming from many cities in Southern California and other states,” Glaab said. “What occurred last year, was a major departure from the previous 28 years and could have had a disastrous outcome.
“With over 10,000 people attending, this was a huge increase, attracting many diverse individuals that we had not seen before. There was public intoxication, illegal parking, blocked driveways and entryways of the other businesses operating at the time and many other activities that could have been explosive. The SO acted in a proactive way and was the right thing to do. As mayor at the time, I wanted our city to take action before anything took place that we would be sorry for later.”
This event, which is marketed through many social Web sites but not by the city, was recently up for discussion at a council meeting in April. Some over the years have said it makes the city look bad.
“The action we took was to ensure that all applicable laws are enforced and public safety is maintained for not only our citizens but for those who come from other cities and other parts of the country.”
He disagrees that it sheds bad light on Laguna Niguel. In fact, Glaab said it demonstrates that the city is enforcing the laws designed to protect people and not wait until someone gets hurt or worse.
“If those in attendance return the event to what it was before last year that would be fine. Our citizens expect no less from their city officials,” Glaab said.
No stranger to local government issues, Glaab was elected to the Laguna Niguel City Council in November 2004. He served as mayor pro tem in 2007, and was unanimously appointed to serve as mayor in 2008. A 30-year veteran of state and local politics, he is said to bring a wealth of experience in local, regional and state policy-making, public affairs and governmental relations to the city.
“Having served various administrations in Sacramento and in the Assembly of the Legislature as a staff person, being elected at the local level allows me to use that background and experience to the benefit of our city,” he says. “Making positive additions to our city is a very strong reward for me.”
Glaab says one of the most important things that he has learned over the years and something that he can share with others about being a public official is the importance of keeping one’s integrity.
“Ensuring high integrity in how you conduct yourself, as well as working in a collaborative way allows you to get more done so when you leave office, you can look back to see the many things you accomplished in making the city a better place than when you came into office,” he adds.
In addition to the mooning, there are some other key concerns/issues happening in Laguna Niguel, including a continued effort to make the right fiscal deductions in these tough economic times, as well as ensuring that the city hall is built on time and within the budget allotted by the council, Glaab said.
“Also, working to have our Eastern Gateway be all that it can be now that we will be seeing significant increase in train service for Laguna Niguel in 2010,” Glaab says. “I also think maintaining our city as one of the safest places to live in OC is a major priority.”
A Sister City
What folks might not know either is that Laguna Niguel has a sister city in Iraq called Al-Qaim. Glaab is currently the City Council Liaison to the City’s Sister-City Committee. Laguna Niguel is one of only eight cities in the nation to have active sister city adoptions with cities in Iraq and so far, he says it has been a positive experience for both.
“What is so special is that we are able to do meaningful things for a city that is in a war zone due to circumstances they do not control and where the US has not been portrayed in the best light,” he says. “Laguna Niguel citizens have changed that for which the council is so very proud. There is no negativity at all. In fact, it has been very well received by our citizens especially with a Muslim community showing to them our religious diversity as a positive thing and an example to them how it is so positive here in the USA.”
On A National Level
Glaab’s political work doesn’t stop at the local level; he has had his fair share of working outside of Laguna Niguel. For example, he worked under former Gov. Pete Wilson and currently serves as an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the California State Mandates Commission.
As a commissioner, he represents all of the cities of the State of California as it pertains to unfunded mandates created as a result of an act of the Legislature.
“My role as a commissioner is to adjudicate test claims from cities, counties and special districts that new legislation creates additional costs to them and make findings as to whether reimbursements from the taxpayers is warranted or not,” he said.
As a member of Schwarzenegger’s Administration, Glaab thinks the Governor is doing the best job he can given all of the dynamics he faces daily.
“Many previous governors have said if there is any state ungovernable, it’s California,” Glaab says. “We are the largest state in terms of population and diversity, and that makes it very tough to govern. My advice to him, if he asked, would be to maintain a conservative approach to spending and taxation. Don’t spend more than you bring in. Just as the city council does for our city and the many families do when managing their household budgets. That is easier said than done given the Legislature is not always — if ever, thinking that way.”
Glaab also serves as the city’s representative to the Orange County Transportation Authority, on its Board of Directors. When asked why the State of California can’t develop a public transit program that sticks, he says it is because everyone has been tied to their cars for so long.
“The good news is that we are making great strides in increasing the amount and frequency of train service up and down the Amtrak/Metrolink lines,” he shares. “Beginning in January 2010, we will have every 30 minutes northbound and every 30 minutes southbound to LA Union Station, Inland Empire and to San Diego. Laguna Niguel will be playing a major role in this by adding a third track to accommodate this increased frequency.”
In addition, Glaab says that OCTA staff and members of the board are reviewing what amenities are needed to facilitate greater use of transit in order to learn “if we get the right mix of services that transit use will be embraced and will be sustainable over the long haul.”
And like most every other city, even though it is a wealthy one, Laguna Niguel has been affected by the economy according to Glaab.
“Right now, there have been few impacts other than a drop in sales tax revenues. As one of the best run cities in the county and state, we are proud of our cash reserves and our ability to maintain projects and deliver on key projects i.e. city hall and repavment of our streets that are in most need. As to layoffs, we won’t be seeing any of that either. As a contract city, we outsource many of the services often done by city workers. We have some of the best employees in the county and all are working hard to maintain those efforts while at the same time giving our citizens greater bank for their taxpayer buck such as our recreation facilities and other services.”
In terms of Laguna Niguel truly being a bedroom community, Glaab says yes, it pretty much is.
“We are a blessed community in so many ways and we are very grateful for having such a great community. Much of this credit goes to our citizens who give back so much to their community and their children,” he says. “Scouting, soccer, softball … and many of the other organized activities all rely on parent participation and volunteerism. When our young citizens are participating in these activities with their parents and volunteers it does not leave much time for some of the other activities that we often see that occur in other cities. Pride in our community is something that is very important to our community and it shows.”
The writer, Debbie L. Sklar is a 20-plus year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. She is a regular contributor to PublicCEO.com and may be reached via e-mail at DLSwriter@cox.net.